Transition Time

Transition Time


Transition time is the time a dynamical system takes to switch between two different stable states when responding to a change in the input signal. In a logic circuit switching between its two valid states, the transition time is either the rise time or the fall time of the output voltage. It is therefore correct to speak of two types of transition times: transition time low-to-high, the rise time of a logic gate’s output voltage. And transition time high-to-low, the fall time of a logic gate’s output voltage.

The science of transition time is clearly defined here. It’s all about energy flow and its consequences. It just makes sense. And this is from a person who, as you may remember, has had no qualitative science class since sophomore year – of high school.

Transition time goes beyond logic circuit switching (whatever that is). Transition time is a fundamental aspect of human existence. At some point in the 80’s, parents were told that we needed to utilize principles of transition time when it came to how we were raising our kids. Announcing: “Bed time! Let’s go!”, rarely created a win/win environment. Kids would get oppositional and parents would get peeved, resulting in heated conflict along with an escalation of energy. Not exactly an opportune ambiance for tuck-in and sweet dreams.

But what if we treated this like a high to low transition? We were told that if we announced, “Ok, you have 10 minutes before bed” that there would be a much greater chance of tucking happier children into bed and being happier parents. And I think this was more or less the case. Bedtime could still be hard, but transition time made it a bit less painful.

As kids (and adults) get older, transition time also came into waking up in the morning. The military version of banging garbage can lids together and yelling as a way to start the morning could make for a rotten day. But what about low to high transition time logic? A soft wake up, a ten minute snooze period before the day truly must begin makes a huge difference. Again, it’s not a panacea, but it’s a start.

There is also spiritual transition time. Selichot, the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah, helps us ramp up our rise time. It helps us pace ourselves to the first evening of the new year. Or take this period called the Omer which counts the days from Passover to Shavuot. It is actually a 49 day transition time from the celebration of the Exodus to Shavuot, the holiday commemorating when we received the Torah from God on Mt Sinai. But is Passover to Shavuot low-to-high? Or is it high-to-low? The way we celebrate Passover – and don’t celebrate Shavuot these days – feels like very high to very low!

Our tradition always wanted us to take the energy of Passover and not let it dissipate. Passover generates too much of a good thing to just let it all go. The sense of fellowship around the table, the sharing of our stories, the laughter, the resolve, even if for a moment, to acknowledge that we are free and thus responsible to help those who are not: all these things and more are powerful and central to our souls.

The transition from Passover to Shavuot is from high to higher (credit to YL Peretz and If Not Higher). Passover celebrates going free. Shavuot reminds us of our ongoing responsibilities of freedom. Shavuot challenges us to go from our liberation story to engaging in the universal liberation story. It reminds us that social justice is not merely an interesting topic; it is our duty as Jews to be involved in it. At Passover we recline as we eat, unhurried, unhassled. But Shavuot demands we get ourselves in gear. How can we blithely enjoy our freedom and success and ignore the needs of others? Answer: all too easily.

The Omer is the transition time for putting away all the seder plates and hagadahs and gearing up for the next round. This is our time to prepare to see the world differently, to embrace our common humanity, our shared world, and our responsibilities. Shavuot is time to say, “We forward in this generation triumphantly”. Will we ever reach redemption? Will all slaves finally be free? This Omer is the time to ask and then resolve to try to do something and then Shavuot is time to make the promise to act. Rabbi Tarfon says: It is not our responsibility to complete the task, but neither are we free to desist from it (Pirkei Avot 2:21).


Shabbat Shalom


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